People are living longer, therefore the U.S. needs to raise the Social Security retirement age.
The above statement fills me with despair. It can be spoken with a straight face only by a young person or a rich person who doesn’t understand: a) What it feels like to be sixty-something in the 21st century, and b) The place of the American worker in the market for human labor, given the new-normal, flat-world economy.
Full disclosure: I come at this retirement age question from a Baby Boomer point of view. I celebrated (?) a 64th birthday in June. For which I’m grateful. It means I’m one of the survivors. I am now enjoying my 65th summer on the planet Earth, which is one of my favorite planets.
It’s a summer like every other summer. Mostly hot, and filled with work.
Work has been the dominant feature — the reality, if you please — of EVERY summer since my teen-age years. Soon as I was old enough to qualify for a “work permit,” conveniently administered by the school system to facilitate child labor, I got a part-time job at McDonald’s, wrapping hamburgers at $1 an hour.
From that first week at McDonald’s, I have been a contributing participant in the Social Security system of the United States of America. A proud and willing participant, I might add. That very week, I paid a small percentage of my $1-per-hour paycheck into the Social Security Trust Fund. And McDonald’s, bless their heart, contributed an identical amount on my behalf.
And so it has continued every week of my life, from then until now. Not to put too fine a point on it, work has been the dominant reality of my life, ever since that first day at McDonald’s. Enough!
Reporting now from mid-August of my 65th summer, I can tell you that the heat, the humidity, and the grind wear a person down. I feel about worked out. Stick a fork in me, I’m almost done.
It must be true, statistically, that human beings are living longer than we used to. (Although looking around, I notice that many people my age and younger are already quite dead. Their reward, whatever it may be, will not include collecting Social Security. Doesn’t that leave a lot of extra Social Security payments in the Trust Fund for us survivors? Just asking.)
Let me get to the point. There are good reasons why people need to retire:
- Work wears out the human body. People who do physical labor, even something like standing up in one place for eight hours at a cash register, feel the aches and pains. Most people simply can’t go on forever.
- People who use their minds would seem to have an advantage. Unless you recognize that minds wear out, too. Take my short-term memory, please. Some older workers experience little or no failure of their mental powers. They are the lucky ones. I can tell you honestly that this older worker’s mind is not as sharp or as quick as it used to be.
- Some older workers compensate by accumulated knowledge and experience. But the fact is, many older workers are functionally obsolete. Our knowledge and experience can be virtually worthless. In the newspaper industry, the entire skilled printing trade has been wiped out. Newsroom reporting and editing staffs are shadows of former greatness. (Editors no longer exist. They have been replaced by a much smaller cadre of “Content Managers.”) Other industries have been transplanted to developing countries.
- Older workers usually are at a competitive disadvantage, compared to younger workers. Recent grads are current on the latest technology and information. Older workers are behind the learning curve. And the sharper, faster, younger workers, who speak computers as a first language, will work for less money than seasoned veterans.
But the most compelling reason not to raise the Social Security retirement age is the worldwide labor market.
Unemployment in the U.S. and other developed countries is not going away! It’s going to get worse! We can’t create new jobs fast enough to keep up with the growing workforce.
Worldwide, the supply of workers far exceeds demand. The supply of highly educated and skilled young workers in China and India is exploding. Meanwhile, automation, robotization, and smart computers continue to replace workers. In the supply and demand equation, American workers are overpriced.
The Social Security retirement age for full benefits has already been raised from 65 to 66. It’s scheduled to go to 67 in the future. 67 is old enough! Stop the craziness!
It makes absolutely no sense to force older Americans to continue working, while younger Americans are unemployed.
If we had the option, it would make sense to lower the retirement age. In fact, American companies have been doing just that for more than a decade! Corporations use early retirement incentives and coercion to get rid of older workers, in order to cut costs and make room for the young.
The Social Security system needs to be made financially stronger. But raising the retirement age is not the way to do it. Raising the retirement age would only hurt the U.S. economy and increase unemployment among the young.
— John Hayden
- Full Retirement Age (socialsecurityhome.com)
- Social Security Fixable; Changes Politically Tough (abcnews.go.com)
- Political Hurdles Prevent Social Security Fixes (huffingtonpost.com)
- Social Security Privatization Fight Revived By Dems To Attack Paul Ryan (huffingtonpost.com)
- Ryan gets heat from Dems over Social Security (miamiherald.com)
- Social Security: scary truths, or hoary scare tactics? (socialsecurityhome.com)